Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth instalment in the Harry Potter books/movies series and one which had wrapped up production and post-production back in 2008 itself. But with The Dark Knight having scorched the box office that year, Warner Bros decided to postpone the movie to the summer of 2009. This might just prove to be a masterstroke, considering that the movie may well turn out to be the best one in the series yet (according to some people, not including me!). Those who’ve read the books might feel that this one is better than the predecessors but as a sole movie-franchise-watching person, I feel that this one is a mere stop-gap stuff; something transitional…a gap-filler, call it that if you will!
The sixth year at Hogwarts starts with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) being whispered about as the chosen one but Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) knows that without being fully prepared, the battle is not to be won. He uses Harry as bait in order to coax Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) into retaking his position as potions teacher at Hogwarts coz he knows something that would be invaluable to defeat Lord Voldemort. Back at school, the teenage hormones are raging and just about everybody seems to be falling in love…either knowingly or unknowingly or even forcibly (er…love potions induced i.e.)! None more so than Hermoine Granger (Emma Watson) who starts feeling jealous of Ron Weasley’s (Rupert Grint) seemingly jovial escapades with other girls. Even Harry is not spared as he finds himself attracted towards Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright). Cho…who’s that? Amidst all this love and laughter (and yeah, Quidditch of course) Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has his own secret agenda, which despite Harry’s protests, is ignored and culminates in the ultimate revenge for Lord Voldemort. Hogwarts is, at last, breached and one of its faithful soldier falls. But not before unlocking a part of the secret of the enemy’s weakness.
The movie is over-excruciatingly shady and too tinted with gray and black…its like watching a grayscale movie with a dollop of colour here and there. And at 150+ minutes, is too long by half. Moreover there’s much happening so as to warrant edge-of-the-seat excitement. The romance part is mulled over most longingly and though is an essential part of the story, takes too much time. The titular focus of the story is limited to just a brewed potion here, a new spell there and that’s it! Malfoy’s malfeasance takes an eternity to materialise and when it does, I can’t help wondering what was stopping them from doing it the first time itself. Were the apple and sparrows some sort of trial-and-error experiments? Come on!!! There is a promiment disconnect between scenes and the flow is not right for most part of the movie. There are hardly any classroom scenes and the sole quidditch scene. Gone also was the three lead characters’ friendship with Hagrid or the others. The cut-back scenes from Hogwarts to the (what was it again?) Borgin and Burks were one too many and I sure was yawning when the scene came up for the nth time again!
Visually, the movie is stunning. The scenes in London are breathtakingly beautiful and exciting to watch at the same time. Same can be said about the cliff-side sequence which is as grandiloquent as it is awe-inspiring. The underground cavern, with its hidden gondola and even more hidden secrets is similarly well thought and executed. Same can’t be said about the moor-side action around the Weasley residence, which I thought was put in just for the heck of it…mere titillation, to make up for the lack of any meaningful action. Returning director David Yates deserves some brownie points for his handling of the above sequences as well as the subtle romance interwoven into the narration. The cast members all churn in exceptional performances: Felton’s pressurised portrayal of a burden-ridden Malfoy, Watson’s now-jealous-now-embarrassed-now-weeping Hermoine, Grint’s confidence in quidditch and his cheesy infatuated teenager performance are some of the outstanding ones. None more so than Harry himself…who sort of comes of age and realizes he must be battle-fit very soon. But the tops was surely Alan Rickman…his speech laden with deadly pauses is more sinister than the flaring nostrils of Voldemort! Too bad he didn’t get to enjoy more of his titular role.
Few of the gripes include the lack of any high-octane action sequences or even a half-decent wand battles. The denouement at the end was too well-known to be worthy enough of being a crucial climactic event; but I guess that’s one drawback of an adapted screenplay…one can’t add in something just to spice things up! Personally I’d have loved seeing a more mature battle between Potter and the Prince. I feel the movie would’ve been more aptly titled Harry Potter and the tutelage of Professor Dumbledore or even Harry Potter and what happens before the final battle!
Moi Rating: Please give your rating below.